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Food Supply

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 281010, tabled on 23 July 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether the legal responsibility of local authorities to provide food in a time of crisis extends to (a) children, (b) people on a low income, (c) elderly people, (d) disabled people and (e) housebound people.

Answered on

6 September 2019

Food is a critical national infrastructure sector and Defra has lead Government department oversight of responsibility for food supply in England. The policy is devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the constitutional settlement.

Defra is not responsible for the supply of food and drink to the population in an emergency, and the expertise, capability and levers to plan for and respond to food supply disruption lie within the industry. However, we have well established relationships with the food and drink sectors, and we work collaboratively with the food industry and across Government to support coherent and robust industry contingency planning and response in the event of an incident situation. The food industry is experienced in dealing with scenarios that can affect food supply.

Local authorities do not have a general duty to provide food but have duties to provide food to particular groups in particular circumstances, including schools and care settings. Public sector food provision for specific sectors is led by the relevant Government departments. Defra works with lead Departments (including DfE, DHSC and MoJ) to support their contingency planning for food supply to public services. Defra’s role involves providing advice and support to these departments who in turn work with their public services to ensure that supply is resilient.

We are committed to a strong safety net for those who need it, which is why this Government continues to spend over £90 billion a year on welfare benefits.